The earlier bad guitar playing habits are nipped in the bud the better for beginner guitarists – it’s all too easy for mistakes to become ingrained in one’s playing techniques which makes them extremely difficult to break out of later on.
Some bad guitar playing habits are caused by laziness, for instance failing to tune the guitar before playing, whilst others are the result of simply not knowing that one is going about things the wrong way, like incorrectly positioning one’s left hand thumb on the back of the guitar neck.
It’s advantageous to understand that playing the guitar is a physical activity, and like any physical activity, you need to get the fundamentals down pat before you move onto something more complex.
- Adopting the wrong attitude to practice
This is the number one bad habit of beginner guitarists, particularly those raised on ‘Guitar Hero’ for some reason – too much rocking out before learning the fundamentals perhaps?
Adopting the wrong attitude to practice could be adopting the ‘mañana’ attitude to practicing, i.e. ‘I’ll get around to it tomorrow’, or it could be failing to strike the right balance between learning something new and perfecting something you’ve already learned.
The best balance is one between learning something new and challenging, and practicing something you’ve learned in the past and want to keep working at perfecting.
- Trying to play beyond one’s ability
The saying ‘crawl before you walk’ is particularly relevant to guitar playing and it’s obvious that every guitarist needs to master the basics before they start playing complex chord progressions.
This is a particular problem amongst beginner guitarists who want to play along to thrash metal bands like Metallica or Pantera because they often lack an interest in slower rock.
However, they must bear in mind that they’re no Kirk Hammett or Dimebag Darrell just yet, and that they need to start off slowly, literally, before moving on to something faster.
- Not perfecting chords before moving on to the next
Playing chords cleanly and correctly is extremely important and one of the most crucial fundamental aspects of guitar playing. A mistake many beginner guitarists are guilty of is failing to learn how to play chords clearly before moving onto the next.
It won’t be denied that playing the same chords over and over again can prove tiresome, though before moving onto the next chord, they should be able to get that particular note to come out cleanly at least 75 percent of the time.
- Incorrectly positioning their hands
The way a guitar is held in one’s hand is crucially important and this is one of the most common mistakes that beginner guitarists make, one that’s particularly common among guitarists who learn from online tutorials rather than with a teacher.
This could entail an incorrect left hand thumb position, the way they place their hands when forming the regular first position F-chord, or the way they place the guitar in their lap that forces them to hold the guitar at the wrong angle altogether and places the wrist at a rather unconventional angle.
- Not learning to play in time
As with any musical instrument, playing in time is one of the most crucial fundamentals of guitar playing, whether one plans on playing with other musicians or not, which they should because it’s inherently rewarding.
A metronome is a worthy investment, though if it’s a bit boring for you then consider buying a cheap keyboard with a built-in drum machine to play along with. It’s kind of like playing with a drummer in many ways, and a great way to learn how to keep time.
You may have an ingrained love of music, the willingness to practice for hours every day, and have purchased one of the best guitars from an online store, but if you don’t break out of your bad guitar playing habits early on you’ll never improve and see the results you want to see.
Playing guitar can be an immensely rewarding experience and a skill that you’ll derive pleasure from for the rest of your days – understand what constitutes a bad habit, break out of them early on and live life through your guitar.